The Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13, 1812 served as an extraordinary expression of historic alliances that extended back generations and marked an essential moment in the emergence of a fledgling country whose borders and character were being tested and defined. The heroics and exploits of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock and General Roger Hale Sheaffe on the battlefield and in diplomacy are well known to history. Largely unknown, however, is the significant role that Six Nations and Native allies played in supporting their British and Canadian compatriots at Queenston Heights and throughout the War of 1812.
Native allies played critical roles in the capture of Forts Detroit and Mackinac, the Battles of Beaver Dams, Stoney Creek, the blockade of Fort George in 1813, and other events, thereby determining the course of Canadian history.
Upon deeper examination historic figures such as John Norton and John Brant, war captains among the Six Nations, Native warriors like Young Warner, John Tutela, John Smoke Johnson, and others have emerged from the shadows illuminating the invisible pages of our shared history.
Only now are we beginning to appreciate the legacy of these contributions, and it is time to reassess the Covenant Chain of Friendship and rebuild our alliances with the Indigenous Nations of this land.
In April 1815 at Burlington Heights, where Dundurn Castle stands today, William Claus, deputy superintendent of Indian Affairs at the time, met with Native allies who had supported Britain during the War of 1812. He presented to those Native nations assembled the Pledge of the Crown Wampum Belt which symbolized the restoration of peace and expressed the gratitude of the Crown for the service provided by Indigenous allies, as well as a pledge to continue the Covenant Chain of Friendship.
Rick Hill and Keith Jamieson with the Pledge of the Crown Wyandot Belt, also known as the William Claus Wampum Belt. This remarkable historic object remains in force today as a graphic document symbolizing the relationship between the Crown and Native allies.
In addition to the Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora) members of these Native Nations also took part in the War of 1812:
|Abenaki of Three Rivers and St. Francis||Miami|
|Huron of Lorette||Potowatomi|
|Menominee||Winnebago (Ho Chunk)|
The Haudenosaunee flag, representing the Six Nations Confederacy, is based upon the Hiawatha Wampum Belt, the original treaty that forged peace among the Haudenosaunee.
For the Haudenosaunee, the War of 1812 became a devastating and deadly civil war between those remaining loyal to the British Crown and those fighting as allies to the United States.
On August 31 and September 1, 1815 forty chiefs from the Grand River Territory and forty chiefs from New York State were invited by the Crown to Niagara for a Council of Peace and Reconciliation. After the leaders had condoled with one another, as witnessed by 400 of their brethren, a war tomahawk was metaphorically ‘buried’ under a white pine tree thus restoring a lasting peace among the divided Native nations.
— RICK HILL (Hayadaha), Coordinator, Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Six Nations Polytechnic
1. Turtle: The turtle symbol is the focal point of entry to the memorial. In the Six Nations creation story the earth was created on the back of a giant turtle.
2. Norton And Brant: Six Nations War Captains at the Battle of Queenston Heights and during the War of 1812, John Norton and John Brant, serve as sentries at the entrance to the memorial.
3. Longhouse: The Six Nations refer to themselves as Haudenosaunee, or “People of the Longhouse.” The longhouse is their traditional architectural structure and a symbol of the member nations living under one Great Law of Peace.
4.Two Row Wampum Trail: The walkway represents the Two Row Wampum Belt, the first treaty between the Haudenosaunee and Europeans, representing their agreement to coexist as separate but equal
5. Time Markers: Two time-line markers are found along the walkway. The first indicates the start of the war in 1812. The second marks when peace was achieved in 1815.
6. Symbolic Squares: The red and blue squares inside Fort Riall serve as symbols for all combatants who fought and gave their last full measure upon this hallowed ground.
7. Memory Circle: At this gather- ing place visitors are asked to remember the contributions of Six Nations and Native Allies who participated in the War of 1812 and to commemorate the historic ceremony of peace and reconciliation held at Niagara on August 31 and September 1, 1815. Eight limestone walls sourced from the Queenston Quarry emanate from the circle like a sunburst.
8. Fort Riall: Fort Riall is an artillery battery built during the War of 1812 named after Major General Phineas Riall
9. Ancestral Lands: The main path meanders past an earthen berm that represents the ancestral lands of Six Nations and Native Allies.
10. Environment: Landscape of Nations features indigenous plants and grasses that would have been found in the region at the time of the War of 1812.
11. Tree Of Peace: An eastern white pine stands as the symbol of the Haudenosaunee constitution known as the Great Law of Peace.
Prior to the War of 1812 alliances had been established between Britain and many Native nations. One example is the 1764 Treaty of Niagara that was negotiated by Sir William Johnson for the Crown. The treaty affirmed and extended the Silver Covenant Chain of Friendship with 24 Native nations including the Haudenosaunee, Wyandot, Menominee, Algonquin, Nipissing, Ojibwa, Mississauga, and others who were members of the Western Lakes Confederacy. During this period of history Native nations acted with full agency, managing their own affairs in the context of nation-to-nation status with Britain.
After the War, however, the covenant was left to tarnish. The Native nations who allied and fought side-by-side with their British and Canadian friends instead faced neglect and even worse, practices and policies designed to strip them of their lands, resources, and cultures. Canada’s Indian Act, passed in 1876, advanced the notion that Native peoples should be assimilated into the dominant Canadian society. To implement this idea a network system of residential schools administered by Christian churches was established. These schools did significant harm to indigenous children by removing them from their families, denying them use of their native languages, exposing them to mental, physical, and sexual abuse by staff members, and coercing them to reject the tenets of their own cultural beliefs.
— JOHN HAWLEY, President, The Village Developments
In 2008 the Canadian government issued a public apology for its historic behaviour and established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate and reveal the truth about the schools. Among its extensive list of recommendations is the development of appropriate exhibitions and educational materials that would establish Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada as a mandatory educational requirement for Kindergarten to grade twelve students. Landscape of Nations has been designed to directly address these recommendations. A primary and essential lesson is the example of Native contributions to Canada during the War of 1812.
The ceremonial Memory Circle at the center of the memorial features eight limestone walls excavated from the nearby Queenston Quarry. Comprised almost entirely of marine sediments of the crinoid, an ancient sea creature, the limestone began to solidify under pressure some 400 million years ago.
About 12,500 years ago, as the last ice receded northward from Niagara, the geologic feature of the Niagara Escarpment re-emerged. The rock, when freshly broken, was a steely grey and the crystal faces of the stone’s components brought the stone alive. The crinoids have returned, somewhat changed in chemical composition, but still retaining all of their presence. Peering into the polished limestone walls is like looking back in time to when life, as eloquently expressed in the Haudenosaunee creation story, was blossoming on the planet. The heart of the memorial has its origins in life.
LANDSCAPE OF NATIONS was made possible by the generosity of the citizens and Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Niagara Parks Commission, the Six Nations Legacy Consortium, commissioned artists Fleisher Ridout Partnership Inc. and Raymond Skye, and these signature donors:
This project has been supported by the Build- ing Communities Through Arts and Heritage Program, Department of Canadian Heritage.
Ce projet a été appuyé par le Programme Développement des communautés par le biais des arts et du patrimoine du ministère de Patrimoine canadien.
An agency of the Government of Ontario Un organisme du gouvernement de l’Ontario
A living memorial dedicated to the contributions and sacrifices made by Six Nations and Native Allies on Queenston Heights and throughout the War of 1812 inspires citizens to learn and acknowledge the critical role that Native peoples played in the defense of this land and the ability of Canada to remain free.
As a commemorative public artwork the memorial also recognizes the historic ceremony of peace and reconciliation held in Niagara on August 31 and September 1, 1815 that restored peace among the Native nations who fought on opposing sides.
Queenston Heights Park
14184 Niagara Parkway
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
8:00 am to 11:00 pm